Republicans Call for Review of HHS Fundraising

Senate Republicans are calling on the HHS Inspector General to investigate fundraising activities by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The following is a summary of a letter to the HHS Inspector General from Senate Ranking Members Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) of the Senate Finance Committee, and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs:

Major news outlets have reported that Sebelius is raising money from the private sector, including from health care executives, for use by a private entity, Enroll America, which is helping implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). These activities call into question whether appropriations and ethics laws are being followed.

Administration officials told The New York Times that private fundraising was necessary because Congress refused to provide enough money to carry out the health care law. An HHS spokesman said the Secretary’s efforts included meetings, calls, and events with 18 categories of people and organizations since January, including retail pharmacies, insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals

Administration officials told The New York Times that the Secretary secured $10 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and a pledge of about $500,000 from H&R Block, which plans to help people apply for tax credits under the new law.

The Hill reported that a nonprofit promoting President Obama’s healthcare law has created an air of expectation that insurers will contribute to the group, according to an insurance industry official. Enroll America has come to feel like just an arm of the administration, said one official who works closely with insurers.

The Hill also reported that current and former administration officials have taken on leadership and fundraising roles for Enroll America. President Obama himself made a vague, but personal appeal for a close partnership with insurers, which some in the industry saw as a precursor to direct fundraising pitches. If true, these statements from the administration and the news reports would suggest the following:

· The Secretary has asked for financial support from at least two private entities.
· The Secretary has asked entities she regulates to support private efforts.
· The solicitation has been broad and has been taking place for months.
· These solicitations were in response to Congress’s refusal to appropriate more funds for PPACA implementation.
· The Secretary and other government officials may be attempting to raise funds for Enroll America from health insurers.
· There are close ties and substantial coordination between the Administration and Enroll America.

Last Updated 11/25/2020

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